“Early childhood is the most important time. Research shows this is true academically, socially, and emotionally. As we came back to school in person, I saw how resilient these little ones are, but also how much they need hands-on preschool learning – especially in the age of screens and tech. They need that time to talk and be listened to with other kids and adults.”
– Kathy Anderson, Director of PCSD Preschool Program
Thanks to the community’s overwhelming support for the school projects bond – thank you, Summit County! – Park City School District will embark on its expansion of preschool access for Park City children.
The impact of Preschool is undeniable - and long-term studies are unequivocal. Attending preschool increases:
- High School Graduation Rates
- Years of College Completed
- Lifetime Earned Income
Plus, every dollar invested in preschool provides a $13 dollar return. This is because, when the achievement gap is addressed before kindergarten, it cuts down on expensive interventions in early elementary.
“In the last couple of years, kids are coming in with less skill in oral language,” said Anderson. “Parents are stressed and busy and sometimes have to work from home while kids are home. That can result in less interaction and more screen time, and of course, a lot less time with other kids, too, because of COVID.”
With this in mind, it’s more critical than ever to expand high-quality preschool access for the Park City community.
“Just being in their ‘home’ school [where they will attend elementary], being a part of that community, they become comfortable with the process and the building,” Anderson added. “This leads to a much smoother transition because they know how to ‘DO school’ and they are already well familiar with it!”
CURRENT PRESCHOOL ACCESS
Thanks to $100,000+ in PCEF donor funding each year, PCSD is able to provide affordable, high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Since its inception in 2010 (started with seed funding from PCEF donors!), more than 2,000 students have gone through the PCSD Preschool Program.
Right now, PCSD Preschool has room for 190 children. There are 600 preschool-age children within district boundaries.
“I don’t know how we would do our program without the Education Foundation,” said Anderson. “All of our opportunities are because of them. PCEF is always there. If we don’t get a state grant - they figure out a way for funding. They are always there to help out, our biggest cheerleader, and always supportive and helpful.”
Initially, preschool registration was first-come, first-served: the first families to sign up were admitted to the program. But – after people camped overnight in their cars in the district office parking lot to ensure their children were able to get access – the process switched to a lottery, and the need to increase capacity became even more urgent.
Because preschool is not supported by the state, PCEF will continue to support it as one of its 8 key initiatives.
PCEF Donors Support:
- Tuition Assistance → keeps early childhood education affordable
- Social-Emotional Learning → helps children recognize/manage emotions constructively
- Take-Home Book Packets → provides books for children to read with caregivers at home
The timeline from PCSD indicates the expansions of Jeremy Ranch and McPolin Elementary Schools are scheduled to be done by September/October of 2023.
Parley’s Park and Trailside Elementary Schools are expected to have their additions done by the Fall of 2024. This is expected to increase capacity to provide room for all three- and four-year-old learners in Park City!
Planners are cognizant, too, of how schedules for both three- and four-year-olds can be challenging for families. Part of the process will now focus on how to provide numerous on-campus services for families, including childcare outside of preschool hours for those who need it.
SPEAKING OF CHILDCARE…
As PCSD expands access to high-quality, affordable preschool education, the Park City Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Alliance is working to create more access to affordable, high-quality childcare for children ages 0 - 3.
No small task, given that Summit County, along with much of Utah, is considered a “childcare desert.” In addition, across the nation, childcare costs are growing more quickly than incomes.
The Community Foundation reports, “Low-income families who pay for care spend more than 25% of their income on childcare, while middle- to upper-income families pay 6% to 8% of their income for childcare, reflecting the serious inequities that currently exist.”
PCEF is working hand-in-hand with the Alliance, which is made up of dozens of organizations, non-profits, healthcare providers, and community members. The team is making it a community priority to “expand and strengthen access to childcare” and to “increase government, philanthropic, and business investment into early-childhood programming.”
Early childhood care and education, Anderson said, are critical for our littlest community members as they begin the journey to reach their academic and lifelong potential…
“Letting them know what they say matters and that they have a voice in this world is so important. Our community has to keep investing in this - and investing in them - as they work on developing that strength.”
When you lower the cost of preschool - you raise the odds of success.
DONATIONS to PCEF support Preschool and initiatives that inspire all Park CIty students to reach their academic and lifelong potential.